Not only is it one of the most lightweight and compact models in the world, the Olympus E-420 is an inexpensive DSLR that's a mighty £170 less than its Olympus E-410 predecessor.

The two cameras look outwardly identical with a busy control layout; only a CSI unit would notice that the Olympus E-420's rear LCD has swollen in size from 2.5in to 2.7in, has a 0.5-second faster continuous shooting speed, and that its grip now features a more prominent raised ridge for greater stability.

Activate the Olympus E-420 and you're ready to shoot in an instant. While the E-420's budget tag means there's not the built-in image stabilisation system that the pricier E-520 provides, making a welcome return are dual card slots for both CompactFlash and the physically smaller xD-Picture Card, Live View, and the grandly named Supersonic Wave System that shakes the camera's sensor free of any intruding dust.

Because of the unique dimensions of the Olympus E-420's Four Thirds sensor, the focus range afforded any attached lens is twice that of its 35mm film equivalent - thus the 14-42mm zoom equates to 28-82mm and so on. The theory is greater flexibility from smaller optics, with a new ‘pancake' construction 25mm portrait lens offering the same range as a 50mm being prime example.

That's good news for travellers who want more professional photos without a great deal more weight than the average compact, so too is the Olympus E-420's Shadow Adjustment Technology that automatically evens out tricky exposures to maintain both shadow and highlight detail. Lost however this time around are two underwater shooting options from its pre-optimised scene mode menu, though most users won't notice.

While low light sensitivity tops out at a run-of-the-mill ISO1600, results are better than expected and relatively noise free at this highest setting, and images are realistically coloured and crisp. As on all Olympus cameras, a ‘Vivid' option delivers added punch and depth.

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Olympus E-420: Specs

  • Four thirds lens mount
  • 10 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • File formats: JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG
  • 2.7in 230k LCD
  • ISO Speed: 100 - 600
  • Storage: CompactFlash, MicroDrive or xD Picture Card
  • Four thirds lens mount
  • 10 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • File formats: JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG
  • 2.7in 230k LCD
  • ISO Speed: 100 - 600
  • Storage: CompactFlash, MicroDrive or xD Picture Card

OUR VERDICT

Compact, easy to use and inexpensive, the Olympus E-420 is a good DSLR option for anyone nervous about trading up from a pocket camera, while E-410 owners can rest easy that any upgrading is relatively minor.

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